Friday, February 05, 2010

"Like a Who concert, only less orderly." -- Jim Caple, ESPN

We who live in Philadelphia have the high privilege and distinct honor of hosting some of the strangest celebrations:

* Groundhog Day
* The Mummer's Parade
* and The Wing Bowl.

The Wing Bowl, a chicken wing competitive eating contest, is held on the Friday before the Superbowl. At 5 o'clock in the morning, 20,000 fans cram into the Wachovia Center, and start drinking beer for breakfast. The Wing Bowl is broadcast live on WIP radio, complete with announcers giving the blow-by-blow with color commentary.

The 29 contestants have been chosen based on an eating stunt. Hank the Tank's eating stunt? Ate the contents of a vending machine in 24 minutes. Pot Pie the Sailor Man's eating stunt? The TGI Fridays desert menu.

Contestants enter on parade floats, accompanied by buxom "Wingettes" who often behave like it's Mardi Gras. As they parade around the arena, the crowd showers them with cheers, jeers and any objects that are handy.

The festivities open with the nation anthem, then the ceremonial eating of a single chicken wing which demonstrates the minimum amount of meat you have to eat to qualify a wing as "eaten."

Five contestants were eliminated during competition due to vomiting. The rule is, "You heave, you leave." Early in the action, one contestant showed signs of un-eating his wings, and the camera zoomed in on him. Twenty thousand people cheered as they watched it on the jumbo screen. Some contestants fake it, just to get on camera.

There are two 14 minute rounds, with a short break in between. As time runs out, many contestants strip or bite as much meat as possible and cram it into their mouths, so that their cleaned wing will count towards their total. Then they swallow their mouthful during the break.

After the first two rounds, the top few face-off for a 2-minute "Eat Off" to determine the winner.

And the Winner of WIP's Wing Bowl 18 is ...
Jonathan "Super" Squibb, a skinny 24-year-old from Winslow Township, N.J., who ate
238 wings in 30 minutes.


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